Hagel Moves to Kill Cold War Fleets

U-2The proposal Monday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Monday to retire the A-10 attack aircraft and the U-2 spy plane was the latest in a series of thus-far unsuccessful attempts to kill the Cold War-vintage systems.

Both aircraft have ardent supporters in Congress and among veterans groups with a track record of fending off the cost-cutters arguing that the A-10 and U-2 have been on duty long past their shelf lives.

The tank-killer A-10 Thunderbolt, better known as the “Warthog” for its ungainly appearance, is especially beloved of the infantry for its GAU-8 Avenger, a 30mm rotary cannon that is the heaviest such weapon mounted on any aircraft.

Various models of the U-2 Dragon Lady have been operating in enemy airspace since 1955, when the first one came out of Lockheed’s famed “Skunk Works” facility in Burbank, Calif., under the guidance of legendary chief engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson.

In presenting the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal, Hagel acknowledged that he had an uphill battle in going against the A-10 and the U-2.

Hagel rattled off a number of Air Force modernization programs in the budget but said that “to fund these investments, the Air Force will reduce the number of tactical air squadrons, including the entire A-10 fleet.”

Getting rid of the A-10s would save $3.5 billion over five years and speed their replacement by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the early 2020s, Hagel said.

“The “Warthog” is a venerable platform, and this was a tough decision,” Hagel said, “but the A-10 is a 40-year-old single-purpose airplane originally designed to kill enemy tanks on a Cold War battlefield.

As much as old pilots and the infantry love the plane, “it cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses,” Hagel said.

In the case of the U-2, the decision to retire the aircraft was more complicated. “This decision was a close call,” Hagel said.

Only two years ago, the Air Force and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were lauding the capabilities of the high-flying U-2 and its high-resolution reconnaissance photos as far surpassing those of the Global Hawk drone that was being touted as a replacement.

At the time, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the Global Hawk “was supposed to replace the U-2 for taking pictures from the air and that was the idea, to do it with a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.”

However, at $176 million apiece, the Global Hawks were a budget buster “so we will continue to use the U-2. That’s a disappointment to us,” Carter said.

Hagel acknowledged that the Defense Department “had previously recommended retaining the U-2 over the Global Hawk because of cost issues. But over the last several years, DoD has been able to reduce the Global Hawk’s operating costs. With its greater range and endurance, the Global Hawk makes a better high-altitude reconnaissance platform for the future.”

In the battle over the A-10, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., whose husband flew A-10 missions in Iraq, has already rounded up more than two dozen co-sponsors to oppose the plan to kill the Warthog.

Even those Air Force officials leading the move to retire the A-10 admit that they’re doing it with extreme reluctance.

At a roundtable with reporters last year, Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of Staff, admitted that “I love the A-10, that was my first fighter, I love everything about the airplane,” Welsh said.“But we’ve got to make some tough decisions here.”

54 Comments on "Hagel Moves to Kill Cold War Fleets"

  1. Pierre Sprey is going to have a heart attack if they retire the A-10.

  2. I agree that the A-10 should, eventually be retired because it is starting to get a bit long in the tooth, however, it shouldn't be retired until we have some to replace that's as good or better than the A-10 which the F-35 is not nearly as good much less better.

  3. The bit about the U-2 is fascinating. What do they have as a replacement?

  4. U2 and SR71 served together. SR72 replaces SR71. U2 has many 'rivals' in the form of drones and increased satellite capability.

  5. I agree with any here the JSF is lousy CAS platform much as how the Pentagon tried this in the mid 1990s with the F-16 a standard fighter bombers is not a true CAS platform we did this in Vietnam and the F-100s, F-104s, and F-105s made lousy CAS planes for troops and so both the the navy and air force used WW2 vintage Skyraiders for this role. The USAF needed a jet platform for survivability reason for Europe and hence the A-10 was born. If you need replace the A-10 get a new CAS platform in service. this Pentagon is going back to 1950s thinking. We don't need tanks we don't need CAS aircraft we don't need to teach dogfighting because instead of missiles now its stealth tech making use do this. Every time we see the idiots in the Pentagon to wake up and say ohh we do need those..

    As for the A-10 now I don't the Senate or House will allow a full A-10 retirement to pass too many congressmen/women and Senators on both parties have states where A-10s are part of either active USAF or USANG units this will be the first part of Heagle's plan to se shredded.

  6. Retire the best intelligence plane we have? Is Hagel on crack!!???

  7. We are North Mexico now. We need every dollar to pay people to not work.

  8. Grrrrreeeeeaaaattt our enemies can get a little rest now that those two very important military hardware are put to pasture. I just hope DOD know what they're doing.

  9. The Air force has never really liked the CAS assignment for the Army, it's just not sexy enough.

  10. Give U2 for R&D alone, IE flying lab & make some museum planes or OK the 2 place model for Fee rides alone for Adventure tourism alone.
    & privitize the A10, IE for firms like Xe to use.
    A10 hasn't been tested on Chinese armor.

  11. For those who say that the A-10 is obsolete just ask the Iraqi tank crews who were obliterated by them. The A-10 is an essential element of our national defense. We are not going to send out $100 million F-35's to hunt tanks. And, $3.5 billion over the next five years is a lot of money, it is chump change for what the A-10 does for fighting wars.

  12. Just for everyone's education this image is an example of the fecal matter produced by the RQ-4:

    I'll let you all decide why it's bad.

  13. so by cutting all A-10 squadrons, they can save 3.5 billion over five years, or $700 million a year. Which comes out to, what three or four F-35s per year? That won't even have IOC for a year or two longer, and most likely won't even be truly combat ready for a while longer still?

    Why is everyone in the defense world so fixated on top of the line, peer versus peer equipment? The argument that the A-10 can't stand up to modern fighters and air defenses is true, except it has not needed to at all for its entire fighting career. What makes people so sure it will have to any time soon? We have a tool, bought and paid for, that accomplishes the mission extremely well at a relative bargain price in cost per flight hour, and we are trying to throw it away to get a new tool, that wont be ready to use for a while, will cost much much more to procure and use, and be less effective in the CAS role. It just seems like such a terrible waste.

    The F-35 is truly the plane that is going to destroy our military capability. So much else is being sacrificed to keep it alive.

  14. In Vietnam the 1937 build DC-3 where use as AC-47 gunship, A-26 and Skyraiders
    the Douglas C-47, A-26 and the North American P-51 saw action in WWII and Koran
    alone with the Battleship

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel should be drop into the mild east where there no Navy Aircraft carries and no A-10 for backup
    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel could take the M-16 from a troop to save money too
    every one at the Pentagon should be transfer to the mild east for a years ! with a AR-15 a 10 round clip as require under California law

    Since 1991 in the mild east the A-10 where rebuild and upgrade, where the work horse
    an a Sr-71 was return to service from flying storage for use in the mild east
    B-1B and Glob Hawk and General Atomics Predator

    All these non Boeing program are bought and paid for and are proven program.
    all these program going thought there version of commercial C and D check

    The C-130 has been around since the 1950's is still going strong

    Boeing in 1997 won a contact to rebuild all the Kc-135 E, R & T that only has 1400 to 1800 hours on there airframe with new skins, new wiring and BAE cockpit
    the service life of kc-135 is 3900 hours or still the years 2040
    the KC-135 only fly 375 hours a years since the Air Force no longer kept fleet of aircraft airborne 24/7
    the update-rebuild kc-135 are being sent to the bone yard in AZ
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KC-135 http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aihttp://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ai
    The Air Force has retire the Kc-135E that was update since 1997 and E model can be turn into R model for 23 million per the GOA report http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02724r.pdf

    The Kc-46 is 900 million over budget and one year behind schedule on testing
    The P-8 does not perform
    Boeing Surveillance Plane Found Not Effective for Mission … http://www.bloomberg.com/…/boeing-surveillance-plane-f...

    All these non Boeing program will now be replace with Boeing program

    Boeing has 110 volitions of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)
    Boeing MILITARY SCANDALS http://www.endgame.org/boeing.html http://www.contractormisconduct.org/index.cfm/1,7http://www.seattleweekly.com/2001-04-18/news/high

    Illegal Immigration is Costs U.S. $113 Billion a Year, http://www.foxnews.com/us/…/immigration-costs-fair-amn...

  15. Hagel has been anti military is whole career, and following Obamas orders to destroy the military. This has to be put to a stop. And they both need to be charged with Treason.

  16. The USAF reviewed the surveillance platforms they have, and determined the U-2 to be better and less expensive in many respects to the Global Hawk. For example, it can fly ~10,000ft higher than the Global Hawk, and carry a much heavier load of gear – so more gets done per flight.

    Where I"m tend to be suspicious of the USAF and its motivations in some areas, I think this time they got it right.

    However, the A-10 should remain. The F-35 cannot replace the A-10 as the Chair Force contends in the ground support mission , with smart bombs and a cannon with a magazine that carries a whopping ~120 rounds (contrast that to the A-10's magazine for the 30mm cannon, that carries almost 10X that).

    Rarely does an aircraft inspire the adoration of the ground-pounders, and outright fear to the bad guys like the A-10.

  17. "…“it cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses,"
    And so the doublespeak begins. On the one had we don't need as big a force or as many squadrons because we no longer have a large, sophisticated enemy to fight anymore but on the other hand we need to modernize our equipment so that we can fight a large, sophisticated enemy.

  18. The A-10 is an old air frame and getting harder to keep flying, so the Air Force wants to retire it (like the US Navy did for the F-14D). Doesn't mean it is an obsolete asset, only a costly one. There is no viable replacement for the A-10, short of using UAV's and hope the commlinks don't get hacked. The A-10's can be sent to the bone yard and reactivated, if needed. The U2 won't be so lucky. The SR-71's are all museum pieces and so will be the U2's.

  19. I'm not an expert by any means but the Pentagon seems to be 100% sold on the idea of multipurpose platforms. They don't want a dedicated air superiority fighter (So they cut off the F-22), or a dedicated CAS platform(kill the A-10), a dedicated surveillance aircraft (so they arm the drones) or a dedicated anything really. Everything has to be multirole. Part fighter, part precision bomber, part CAS, ect. Another example would be the LCS program for the Navy.

    The reason it doesn't make any sense to my amateur eyes is thus:

    If you assume we will be facing primarily asymmetrical threats for the foreseeable future, then multirole makes sense. But if that is the case, why do you need all the bells and whistles and top of the line everything just to drop some JDAMs on insurgents or terrorist. Seems pretty stupid to demand a stealth aircraft for an enemy that doesn't have RADAR.

    On the other hand, if you do expect a future conflict with a major power, which can only mean China these days, then dedicated platforms are exactly what you need. Vietnam, as others have pointed out, showed the weakness of 'Jack of All Trades, Master of None' platforms.

    I think that is why retiring the A-10 without a dedicated CAS platform to take its place seems so foolish. More and more the F-35 program looks and feels like a bunch of spoiled boys not wanting to give up their shiny new toys. And the excuse we keep hearing is that there are no other options. It's F-35 or bust. Which is stupid and a lie.

    The most logical step to me would be to can the VTOL F-35 (Seriously, why do we need VTOL jet fighters? It's like putting a Porsche's body on a Honda Civic and then asking that car to perform like a supercar. But I digress.), and take serious hard look at the Air Force and Navy variants.

    At this point, I'd prefer they buy more F-15Es and if they need something to back up the F-22 look into the stealthy F-15 Boeing has been trying to shop around. The Navy, which is desperate to join the Air Force in the 'stealth club,' can keep pushing ahead with the F-35 if they want, or maybe try an upgrade to the F/A-18.

    They would save money on proven, successful, platforms and then they can go back to the drawing board for a true replacement for each instead of this one size fits all garbage.

    But they won't, because the F-35 is the shiny new toy and they're tired of their old ones.

    Like I said, there a plenty who have more knowledge on this than me. I'm just an arm chair general here. But that's the way it looks to my amateur eyes.

    As for U-2 vs Global Hawk, I have absolutely no idea what either can or can't do and what is the best option there.

  20. After the apology tour everyone is our friend now. Maybe you didn't notice. We don't even need a military anymore. We have an Apologizer in Chief. That's all we really need.

  21. hagel out of there.

  22. A-10 Stays!
    U-2 Stays in Reserve!
    SR-72 replaces U-2 when flights tests prove ability to…

  23. Retire Hagel and Obama; a lot of money would be saved with that move!

  24. Who'd trust anything this crowd of "Cub Scouts" would do? Obama and his minions would dismantle America's military to fund [his] social justice hoax! Folks, Obama is [the] problem, he's delaying an economic recovery, while continuing the deficit spending on his "food stamp" economy!

  25. Leo Gerald Johnson | February 25, 2014 at 11:39 am | Reply

    I don't know why the DOD want's to get rid of an aircraft that has proven itself in combat.Why don't they just improve on it's "Technology' anddesign? If they want to cut a program why don't they cut the LCS program?Cause of all of the reports that I've read tell's me that this program was desighec to fail in the first place.The Navy has really had problems with the ships they've gbuilt in this program.Why dio't they scrap It.

  26. The U2 is obsolete anyway, losing it will hurt nothing. I mean, we got satellites that do a much better job. Losing the A10 is a different ball game. I've heard some Air Force General say the F35 can replace the A10….I don't think so.

  27. The Sopwith ‘Camel’ was an outstanding aircraft. Can’t understand why the RAF doesn’t still have a few operational Squadrons.

  28. gaylord_gaylordson | February 25, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Reply

    Probably yes….they will.

  29. I love the Warthog… my first base was DM. However as many of you are aware, there are many different weapon systems from many different platforms that can bomb tanks from miles away with pinpoint precision. Can we still use the A10, sure. Can we use other platforms for the exact same thing, yes. The A10 is obsolete.

  30. I've been contracting and following military news for over 20 years. This is the 3rd time (I think) that I've seen them try to kill the A-10 program. It's cheap and brutally effective at it's mission, but the Pentagon can't love a Warthog.

    As a previous poster mentioned, killing the entire program buys 3 or 4 more F-35s which are barely capable of the carrying out the mission which the A-10 absolutely dominates.

    This bird is hard to kill on the battlefield as well as the political field. Gotta love her. I say we fly them until the wings fall off.

  31. The F-35 is going to destroy your military. OK, that's a contentious thing to say but from here (the UK) it looks like everything you've built up in the way of military hardware is just being sacrificed on the altar of that one, single project. Which has yet to demonstrate any capabilities in any field, let alone the multiple ones it's touted as being able to cover.

    And, yes, I know we're buying it as well. Please don't remind me.

  32. I’m not happy about the A-10 being cut, but good luck getting that through congress, no matter what party line your from. On the other hand I did like what Hagel had to say about the LCS. He is cutting the LCS fleet to 32 ships, to focus on ships with more firepower.

  33. As a combat veteren who's applied the awesome firepower of the A10, AC-130, and F-16's, nothing beats the first two. The A-10's absolutely take care of buisness, because they're low enough, and slow enough, to really get in the fight. Same for the AC-130's, but they only operated at night, but wow, that 105mm was real on point fire power. Never had any success with F16's in the CAS role. Too fast, too high, no loiter, no value. Can't imagine the JSF or the F35 would do any better. Leave us ground pounders the firepower we need, save your 500,000 lines of code (F35) for what it's designed for, air superiority.

  34. I think it would be a good idea to Sell the A-10s to South Korea or another Allay of the USA as well as the U-2 we might as well make money off of this and any other piece of equipment we are getting rid of

  35. Keep them Flying | February 25, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Reply

    Keep the A-10!!! While I'm at it, CANCEL the F-35!!! What I want protecting my country is the F-22 Raptor! No country has a fighter like it. We never should have stopped building them. It gives us an advantage, an edge over the competition. We don't want the F-35 "econo-box" that is being sold to every other country. The F-35 does not give us an advantage! What does it matter how old the A-10 is? Look at the B-52! If it works and works well, why get rid of it!!!!

  36. CANX the F-35, keep the A-10 SLEP going. Anybody that thinks the AF is going to risk a F-35 in the CSAR role is an idiot. Not to mention the fact that all 140 round of 25mm aint gonna do crap compared to the GAU-8 People saying the A-10 is obsolete are crazy, all new weapons system and un matched effective loiter time and arsenal is what the US needs protecting its boundaries.

  37. Keep cutting Mr. Secretary. B1’s, F 111’s, and much much more can be let go.

  38. The damm F-35 IS A PIECE OF S*** so far, these dammed mother******* officials haven’t been on the f****** battlefield where assets like the FREAKING A-10 save these soldiers lives! THE F-35 ain’t even ready in numbers and they found NUMEROUS faults in its Structural Integrity!

  39. Just let an A-10 and a F-35 mix it up down low in the weeds and then ask the DOD which oneis better while they are picking up pieces of the F-35!

  40. The current person serving in the White House indicated when he was running for President the first time, that he wanted the United States to be a Third World Country and have a 3rd World Military. He is a socialist and/or Communist from the get go.
    The people that work under him, Hagel being one of them, must do what he says, regardless of how they actually feel. There are some who actually agree with him and they are not really “Americans".

    Secretary Robert Gates was a much better Secretary of Defense. However Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld were two of the best; with Caspar Weinberger coming in third.

  41. I think that is the right decision. The utility of the A-10 is clearly limited, perhaps, in a very limited insurgency role now.

  42. Guys, we know the A10 and U2 are more or less perfect at the jobs they're designed for, but they're not NEW enough. The DoD wants shiny things.

    Seriously, the civilians in control are like the teenage girl that NEEDS the new iPhone.

  43. Keep the U-2 flying – it has saved America's bacon many times and continues to be a national asset. Unfortunately because so many of its missions are sensitive or classified – it seldom receives any recognition. But it is flying critical missions every single day. Overheads and UAV's cannot do the job the U-2 performs. Ask the folks at the NRO & the CIA = this is a no-brainer.

  44. So this idea that we don't need the A-10 because we won't be fighting tanks anymore, is a belief in the DOD and/or SecDef Hagel ? I am wondering if anyone in the DOD or Hagel himself, has bothered to check on the current size of the tank corps within the Chinese military, the North Korean military, the Iranian military or their Republican Guard? Does anyone honestly believe we won't be engaged in a war with one or all of these countries in our future?
    people who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it.

  45. Hagel can't move his bowels without having obama tell him how and when. He is the absolutely worst and poorest excuse for a Cabinet member I have heard or seen in a long time. He doesn't have the guts or balls to say what he really wants to. He just opens his mouth and obama pours out. Maybe one day he will stand up for himself and say what he really feels and wants. Maybe?

  46. Problem is the defense industry exist because of government funding but then again, what’s left? All the textile industry was sold up the river! What’s left that is out there that brings in major revenue in this country.

  47. Has anyone listened to the news today??? The "Russians" are holding an exercise on the border with a country we are supporting to become demoncratic!!!! And all the file footage was of "ex-Soviet" tanks moving into action….. Now who's gonna need A-10's???? The "mouse that roared", the hero of Vietnam and ex-presidential wanna-be turned Sec. of State is making noises that could prove fatal to members of our military. So much for not needing an "old", reliable and effective weapons system

  48. Its a shame to see that the old demons of the Pentagone are BACK!
    They now prefer a fancy good looking and highly complex gadget that tries to do everything but finaly ends up doing nothing great!
    Just tell me, what is the point on having a stealh plane perfoming CAS, while we all know that USAAF doctrine is to First gain Air superiority and weaken the Enemy air defences with SEAD operations? The GI joes are only to enter in action when there is a permanent air cover, rendering enemy defence's work pretty hard and suicidal.
    The only big winner with the F-35 program is the Marine Corps, who will end up with a multirole VSTOL fighter, Enabling them to project with their Amphibious fleet small airpowers with the same capabilies as the big brothers USAAF and NAVY (Air superiority, SEAD, Deep Strike). But again, the Marines will lack firepower when they will call out for CAS!!! (the Primary purpose and role of the Marine Air Wing)

  49. Didnt red china blow up a satellite?????? No Sat's no problem….and at least the U2 and the A10 have a live person aboard! my 2 cents.

  50. I remember an A-10 and pilot that shot down an enemy aircraft. An aircraft from the worlds fourth largest air force,an air force which so outclassed the A-10 that it should have been a flag draped coffin and a black spot on a patch of earth. But some one forgot to tell the pilot or his aircraft they were inferior quality.

  51. Anyone who thinks regularly replacing $1,000,000,000 satellites because its cheaper than flying U-2s and SR-71s is a fool. Launch costs alone exceed the cost of flying the spy planes.

  52. Not having the A10 will result in more battlefield deaths. Saying the F35 will replace this rugged and effective ground support aircraft is crazy. You do not put a hugely expensive and fragile to small arms fire aircraft into ground support. As effective as the army helos are, they can not replace the A10 and its 30mm cannon.

  53. Let me see if i get Hagel intentions straight he and the "Dear Leader" want to retire the A-10 and replace it with the F35 . Does the F35 do a better job at close air support? Well he doesn't know because the plane is years behind schedule. It has to fly better and carry more weapons for close air support? Well we don't know that either. We do know that its missiles miss everything they fire at in the testing, Every-time it goes on a test flight they discover more cracks where the wings join the fuselage the floor of the plane itself and doesn't fly as fast as first reported. Well it must be able to loiter over the battlefield than the A-10? No it doesn't it flies faster than the A-10 therefore it spends less time in close air support if it ever flies.

    Well if we ask the troops on the ground that depend on CAS for assistance they must certainly have negative opinion of the A-10.No they love it it does a great job and can take anything out on the battlefield. So by all means retire the plane that's bought and paid for does an outstanding job in everything its ask to do for a plane that might be ready in another 4 to 5 years that is was over budget can't come close to the plane its suppose to replace.

  54. Vern Williams | March 3, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Reply

    In light of the actions to invade Ukraine by Russia and the support of the Chinese, it would be irresponsible to downsize in light of the threats. We do not need to use taxpayer money to give 100% of kids at schools tax payer funded meals. We do not need to waste money on handouts to folks who will not work. We need to focus on the primary function of the federal government, defend the country against all enemies foreign and domestic. The president took that oath and he is reneging on his duty by his treacherous actions. Call your congressmen and insist we stop stealing from our kids while putting their freedom and futures at risk!

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